COVID-19 Impact Report

For some time, for many Asylum Seekers, destitution and homelessness have been common features of the UK Immigration system. During lockdown, many Asylum Seekers and new Refugees have been temporarily protected from homelessness due to the suspension of evictions from asylum accommodation, the continuation of Home Office financial support and the ‘Everyone In’ policy that allowed Local Authorities to accommodate everyone at risk of homelessness.

For some of our Service Users, this has meant being temporarily housed outside of the Borough. However, largely as a result of their informal support systems failing or people moving to Bolton to stay with friends, we have seen an influx of new Asylum Seekers. We anticipate that, as the Government phases out its lockdown support, we will see the return of our regular Service Users and new requests for help.

Despite our normal Wednesday ‘Drop-in’ Centre at the Victoria Hall remaining closed and with many of our Volunteers in age-related shielding, we have still managed, with a much-reduced Team, to offer help and support to our destitute service users and their families.
▪ Each week, we have helped – mainly with food support but also with medical, essential travel and emergency accommodation expenses – between 21 to 28 people, at a total cost of over £9,000.
▪ Our Casework Team has conducted, over the telephone, 84 ‘remote’ Casework sessions.
▪ We have taken on 20 new Service Users, almost doubling the number of destitute users we have supported.
▪ We have worked with many organisations but would like to pay particular tribute to Victoria Hall Management, who have enabled us to operate food support sessions throughout the crisis, and Bolton Mutual Aid, who contributed to our Food Support sessions and were a life-line to some of our destitute clients and to other Service Users who needed extra support.

Future Planning

For our future planning, we have learned a number of valuable lessons, which we are now addressing:
▪ As at present, in times of crisis, our services may have to be provided by a much-reduced Team of Volunteers.
▪ We need to have all our data in digital format so that  For further information, please visit our website: we are not s reliant on paper- based records and can conduct our Casework services remotely.
▪ COVID Health and Safety procedures will now be key to our operations and will entail ongoing
expenditure on PPE (£750+ spent April – June).
▪ For the 100+ Service Users who are not destitute or receiving Casework support but who used to attend the ‘Drop-in’ for a hot meal, companionship, English tuition and other practical help, we are
currently unable to offer these services. The loss of the hot meal and other practical help increases the demand on their limited budgets and the loss of the weekly forum for meeting friends and members of their community will undoubtedly affect their mental well-being. We need to find safe ways to help and support them.
▪ During the lockdown, key Agencies, such as the Home Office and Migrant Help, have responded more slowly. This has delayed the allocation of housing and funding, which was distressing for the Asylum seekers and put additional pressure on our Casework and other resources. Delays remain likely whilst the impact of the pandemic continues.
▪ We are still the only charity in Bolton providing face-to-face Casework and related support for destitute Asylum Seekers. Presently, there is an influx in demand and we need to take measures to ensure we are not overwhelmed.